Maine South clips New Trier for CSL South crown
Maine South was struggling to put points on the board Friday night against visiting New Trier.
The Hawks were moving the ball -- their first two drives went for 15 and 14 plays respectively -- but all they had to show for it were a couple of missed field goals and a 3-0 deficit to the Trevians.
And to top it off, their quarterback, junior Rowan Keefe, was making his first varsity start.
Then, with just a little over 5 minutes left before halftime, one play turned the whole game around and gave the momentum to Maine South.
Junior running back Mike Sajenko took a swing pass from Keefe and outraced two defenders down the left sideline, scoring from 70 yards out to give the Hawks a lead they wouldn't relinquish.
Behind a staunch defensive effort, the Hawks won 14-9 to take the Central Suburban South title.
"That was huge," said Maine South coach Dave Inserra of the Sajenko touchdown. "That was Mike showing his speed, showing his ability, and it was a great call by coach (Charlie) Bliss."
The Hawks would add on one more second-quarter score -- a 2-yard run by Sajenko -- to take a 14-3 lead into intermission.
New Trier, which along with Maine South came into the game with a 4-0 record, responded with a touchdown on its opening drive of the third quarter, then the Hawks' defense kicked into high gear.
Maine South held New Trier out of the end zone on a long Trevians march down the field in the final quarter when, on fourth down, cornerback Kevin Wolf broke up what looked to be a sure first-down completion by swatting away a pass.
Linebacker Sammy Marin played well for the Hawks, making several key stops late, and the Maine South offense took the ball in the final minutes down to the Trevians 2-yard line, where they turned it over on downs.
Given one last chance with under a minute left, New Trier advanced the ball but ultimately threw four straight incompletions, with Charlie Zajac and Wolf making the key plays in the secondary for the Hawks.
"Our defense played well all night," said Inserra. "We gave up some yards, we bent but we didn't break. We just kept hammering away, and I loved our effort."
Keefe had a strong game through the air in his first start, going 22-for-31 for 248 yards.
"We kept telling him, 'just enjoy it,' " said Inserra. "This is your chance, just be up to the moment.
"All in all just great preparation going in to this game, from the coaching staff to the players. We knew we had a game on our hands, we knew it was going to be a battle. Great week of practice and we turned it into (a win) on the field."